The above picture, grainy and black and white though it captures a conversation I had some 3 years ago that will remain with me for a long time.
As a recent alpine addict I consume everything I can , books and video and tales of all things mountain and adventure. Drinking it all in hoping it gets me nearer to the reality.
At the sad occasion of a long time family friend (and somewhat grandfatherly figure to me growing up) I happened to be sitting at a table with some of his oldest friends. We talked politely as you do, they about their everyday lives and family and the usual topics of gardens and holidays, us about our recent excited foray into the mountain world.
The topic of camping came up and a voice across the table said politely of the lady next to her ,that “this is Mrs Vango“.
Slightly confused at first I looked at this well presented lady , trying to work out the joke until that lady in turn indicating her husband with a smile and a wink said “and this is Mr Vango himself”.
Lets take a step back.
Vango for anyone not so intimate with the outdoors or camping is a very longstanding tent and camping equipment brand. Despite its somewhat Germanic/Nordic (to me anyway) sounding name, it is in fact Scottish.
Vango’s origins in the 60’s were under a different brand name but after growth to become a globally respected tent designer and manufacturer, acquisitions of otehr brands and a need to simplify the name (to make it easier for people to write payment cheques ) they used an acronym of their location (Govan in Glasgow) and landed on Vango.
A full timeline of their origins and innovations is available on their website . And the F10 Brand is still gong strong and you can still order today the classic Mark5 . PS I also highly recommend the F10 Alpine Rucksack, a favourite of both mine and our guest blogger Andrew Mallinson !
Fast forward to this photo again.
The gentleman on the right is Alasdair Moodie the founder of Vango. On the left you can see I’m completely entranced hearing his tales.
Born in Largs (Scotland) in 1930, a graduate of applied Chemistry he entered national service and then later joined the family business in textiles before forming the Vango brand.
He happily told me of the origins of the company, his travels as an international business man, the early days of outsourcing manufacturing to the far east (while trying to retain the very high quality he demanded) and most specially he told me of his adventures in support of high mountain attempts with Sir Chris Bonnington (The Force10 Mark 5 tent ) – most notably the 1972 & 1975 attempts of the South West face of Everest.
“Vango Force Ten Mark 5 tents were used for approach marches and at Camps One and Two on 1972 and 1975 expeditions, to climb the South West Face of Everest. They gave reliable and excellent service throughout both expeditions.”
Chris Bonington, Expedition Leader, British South West Face Expeditions
Alasdair painted an incredibly rich picture of history for me, of the great ranges in the golden age of high altitude mountaineering as well as the business world he had to navigate (sounding every bit as risky and exciting as the mountains). The thing I remember most is how his eyes brightened telling the tales. This outwardly unassuming gentleman who was such a pivotal part of the history I read and consumed every day.
A sad event of course to attend but I left excited, chattering and in awe of Alasdair. My wife tells me I was like a child lost in the stories, the world around clearly now not something I was aware of – off in the Himalayas in a Force 10 tent, feeling the tearing winds and taking part in the struggles to erect a tent at that altitude. And I’m pretty sure the family friend whom we were there to remember was watching with a smile, happy to know I was now off on my own mountain adventures.
I will always treasure this picture and Vango will always have a more special place in my heart now.
Post dedicated to Peter Christie.